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Washington team eying move to Vero?

Something is going on at Dodgertown (excuse us, Vero Beach Sports Village), and the possibility that has everyone atwitter is it may involve a major league baseball team – specifically, the Washington Nationals – moving to Vero Beach for spring training.

The Nationals currently train some 50 miles up Interstate 95 in Viera, and principal owner Mark Lerner has made no secret of the fact that the Nationals are looking for a place where they could relocate two years from now either in Florida or Arizona.

“We have no choice but to look at what our options are,” Lerner told The Washington Post two weeks ago.  “We’re going to continue to do that in both states. Hopefully, we’ll be successful firming something up with Florida.”

So that brings us to Vero, where Minor League Baseball two years ago took over the lease of the hallowed grounds abandoned by the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

For several months, the City of Vero Beach has been trying to get the county to agree to a land swap that would let Minor League Baseball – which currently has a flock of high school and college teams playing spring training games at the site -- build four new baseball fields suitable for youth games on property adjacent to Dodgertown.

But on March 25, City Councilman Brian Heady said he had been called in by Acting City Attorney Wayne Coment and told the land-swap deal was “on hold because there was a third party involved that was trying to negotiate to take over the lease from Minor League Baseball.”  A week later, Councilman Craig Fletcher confirmed he had been told the same thing.

Coment subsequently confirmed to us that he had been informed by County Attorney Alan Polackwich “things were on hold and referenced (County Administrator Joe) Baird had talked with a third-party that was interested in the site . . .” 

So what does Baird have to say?  “We have a lot of people approach us.  You know the Washington Nationals have been talking, they have expressed interest,” Baird said. “But you know how these things are, nothing comes of it.”

And that’s all we have been able to extract from him (beyond the fact that he mentioned the Nationals no fewer than five times in three phone calls).  But given that the land-swap that Minor League Baseball badly wanted – which was about to be finalized -- is now on hold, something clearly is going on.  Stay tuned.